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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 152

Paragraph Numbers 48 to 57

Volume 1

Chapter 6

Subsection 10


48 The Commission established a research department in order to assist with the analysis and contextualisation of the enormous amount of data, evidence and information that it received. Although the department was principally concerned with primary data received from various sources, it also considered a range of secondary sources on issues relevant to the Commission’s work. By continually evaluating the Commission’s primary data in the light of material already written on the subject, the Research Department was able to enhance the evidence presented to the Commission.

49 The Research Department began its work by generating regional chronologies of human rights abuses that had occurred during the Commission’s mandate period. These chronologies were used to isolate fifteen strategic research themes which helped to explain the causes and nature of various modalities of human rights abuse. These themes were constantly revised and updated as more information and evidence was placed before the Commission. The Research Department then analysed each statement received by the Commission and categorised it according to theme. This helped ensure that any explanation or analysis generated by the Commission would be based primarily on information gathered by the Commission itself.

50 The Research Department considered and analysed almost all of the information gathered and received by the Commission. This included submissions made by various institutions (political parties, state structures, non-governmental organisations and so on); evidence received at the various hearings of the Commission; evidence received in amnesty applications and hearings; archival material; transcriptions of section 29 enquiries; interviews conducted by experts or relevant persons, and secondary material.

51 This research and analysis on the nature and genesis of human rights abuse in various regions or according to various themes also assisted the Human Rights Violations Committee in making findings on the statements it received. Similarly, the work of the Research Department provided valuable background material which assisted the Amnesty Committee in its deliberations. The Research Department, guided by the work of the Commission as a whole, also facilitated the drafting of the various chapters of the Commission’s final report and managed the editing and production process.


52 In terms of section 20(c) of the Act, one of the preconditions for the granting of amnesty was that the applicant made full disclosure of all relevant facts. The amnesty process was thus one of the most important sources of information regarding gross violations of human rights. In particular, the amnesty process provided vital insights into the motives and perspectives of perpetrators and offered important evidence regarding the authorisation of gross violations of human rights.

53 Information derived from the amnesty process took two forms. First, it was contained in the written applications submitted by those applying for amnesty. Second, it was derived from the testimony given at the amnesty hearings themselves. The latter information was usually considerably richer and more detailed than the former, and it must be noted that, at times, significant discrepancies emerged between information contained in applications and that adduced at hearings. This presented a difficulty in the drafting of the Commission’s report, which is discussed below.

54 Members of the Research Department and Investigation Unit perused all amnesty application forms. These applications were classified based on the identity of the applicant according to a classification system developed by the Commission. Broadly speaking, the applicants were divided into three categories:

a those working within the previous state system or in support of the status quo;

b those working to overthrow the state;

c the white right wing.

55 Once this classification was complete, each sub-category was further analysed in order to identify key themes common to each. These themes, together with a list of amnesty applications relevant to each of them, were made available to the Research Department and Investigation Unit to assist them in their work. This process allowed for the information contained in amnesty applications to be considered during the process of drafting relevant chapters of the final report. For example, researchers responsible for providing an account of the role played by the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army (APLA) in the commission of gross violations of human rights were able to refer to all amnesty applications submitted by members of APLA or the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). They were also able to scrutinise these applications according to certain themes, for example: attacks on ‘soft targets’ (urban); attacks on ‘soft targets’ (rural); attacks on the South African Police/South African Defence Force.

56 This allowed the evidence collected from sources such as victim statements and section 29 enquiries to be integrated with the information contained in amnesty applications. The result of this process of gathering information from a range of sources and representing a range of perspectives was a more nuanced and sophisticated analysis of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights.

57 A cause for concern, alluded to above, was the fact that the analysis of information derived from the amnesty process (reflected in various chapters of the report) was, in many instances, based on written amnesty applications and not on the proceedings before the Amnesty Committee. This is because not all amnesty applications had been heard prior to the submission of the report.

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